« interview with Geoff Mulgan on happiness | Main | the tyranny of the bullet point »

June 09, 2011



Good post Will, what you're describing is the optimism of the will, shorn of the pessimism of the intellect. It rather reminds me of when Polly Toynbee, asked how she defined 'the left' said, 'to live on the left is to live optimistically, believing in progress despite setbacks.' Unlike most things she says, this could have come straight from Ayn Rand.

Ian C

An excellent post.
In a democracy run by post-Christian liberal elites of right and left, the dominant wishful worldview is one of cooperativeness, progress, goodwill, compassionate welfare and life being about more than money and status. In the neoliberal economy overseen by these elites, all this is for the birds. It is politically unpalatable to admit that your fundamental economic worldview is incompatible with your expressed social and civic values. So there is enormous attraction in evidence and concepts that seem to shore up a benign self-image for the self and social life, to to offer elites a programme for a modest level of reform, while conveniently leaving the economy alone to be run by on Randian lines by the City and the Randals in the Treasury. So 'nudge' and related ideas are a perfect fit for policymakers in the Long 1980s - holding out the promise of piecemeal changes at the level of the individual consumer that make social and environmental conditions a bit better, while avoiding any challenge to political and economic power structures. ( I'd better stop before I talk myself into re-reading Foucault, whom I dislike enormously. )

Pat Kane

Quite agree Will. One of the useful aspects of coming at the politics of human nature from play is that the darker, more agonistic & chaotic dimensions of human species-being have to be talked about - & in terms of the joy & pleasure they bring.
Also, its funny that current think-tank sociobiology tends to confirm a very suburban, work-&-leisure-defined "social animal". Play is still something of a wasteful puzzle to most evolutionists - for me, evidence that we sapient ones have a semiotic & cognitive openness which allows us to tell our genes, as Pinker says, to go take a jump in the lake. My play guru Brian Sutton-Smith calls play "adaptive potentiation" - which is at least better than adaptive conformism. You can see where this all ends up with Matthew Taylor's recent RSA lecture - a capitalism which is enlightened enough not to make money from the cognitive weakness of customers could become a "capitalism without exploitation." Yeah really?

The comments to this entry are closed.